New Chapter for Google Book Search – I’ll Stick to Beer

Google has now enabled more complete access to online books.

Unfortunately, Google did not bother making the new features available where it would be most valuable:

“With this agreement, in-copyright, out-of-print books will now beavailable for readers in the U.S. to search, preview and buy online –something that was simply unavailable to date.”

Once again, Africa is neglected and we see nothing of that other favourite Google term: Net Neutrality.

Here in South Africa, books are stupidly expensive.

For example, if you buy The PayPal Wars from Exclusive Books, it will cost you R406 (approx $40). If you buy The PayPal Wars from Amazon.com, it will only cost you $10.85.

But to understand the price difference, you also need to look at the relative cost of living in South Africa. In San Francisco, a pint of beer costs $5 and up. In South Africa, a pint costs about $1.50. Thus, if we are to look at (what I’d like to coin) a Global Beer Cost Index, the book will cost 2 pints in San Francisco. In South Africa, the book will cost 26 pints! That’s 13 times more!

And I’m not even taking into account average salaries and complex economic indicators like the World Beer Index 

Then, you also have to take into account the lack of libraries in African countries and the unlikelihood that they’ll have a book such as The PayPal Wars in stock in the first place.

So come on Google, make a bit of an effort! Providing access to online books to African readers will have a much higher impact than in the US where most people can easily afford to buy it or get it at their local library!

 In either case, I borrowed a copy of The PayPal Wars from a friend in San Diego. In the meantime, I’ll have a few more beers.

Heading to Barcamp Africa! In America…

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(Building a bridge and establising links between Silicon Valley and Africa – picture from travelblog)

I’m about to embark on my first trip Silicon Valley (and the USA, for that matter).

Last week, my friend and mentor Vinny Lingham of Synthasite contacted me about Barcamp Africa. He reckoned it would be a fantastic opportunity to promote Skyrove’s vision of community owned internet and to meet some people who could help with suggestions, ideas, collaboration etc.

So here I am, sitting on the first of 3 planes on the way to San Francisco.  (Cape Town -> Johannesburg -> London -> San Francisco).

I’ll try and put some updates and photos on this blog, and should be fairly active on twitter. You can follow me there on http://twitter.com/geekrebel

If you have any ideas or stories about African innovation you’d like me to help “get out there”, please leave a comment! 

Pepper Spray Security Systems

This morning my wife and I dropped off her car at Reeds Motor Cape Town for a service.

While in the service area with the car inspector, people started streaming out of the adjoining reception area. The car inspector told us that someone had set off pepper spray in the reception area.

Soon afterwards, the pepper spray reached into the service area, and my wife started feeling the effects with coughing and sneezing and a stinging sensation to our eyes and throats. With the rest of the staff in the service area, we also vacated the premises.

There a staff member told us that they had recently installed a pepper spray security system attached to their plasma screens, and that one of the staff members had accidentally triggered the sensor!

The use of pepper spray in South Africa is only legal when done in self-defense. Pepper Spray has been shown to cause fatalities. (More than 61 deaths in the US alone since 1991)

Furthermore, anyone using pepper spray as anything but a defensive weapon can still be charged with a firearms offense.

I suppose it’s yet another example of Wild West South African mentality. Let’s risk attacking our customers and employees with pepper spray, just so long as we don’t lose our plasma screens!